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In-universe, what is the spell bane actually doing when cast?

So for roleplaying and describing what happens most spells are self-explanatory, like fireball. We can describe the fireball in multiple ways for flavor and then we get to the mechanics of rolling dice. This holds true for a lot of spells: we describe what happens, then roll some dice. I don't know how to describe bane since I'm not sure how it does what it literally does; I only know its mechanics.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I adjusted the question a bit to be less opinion based. However, we need to know what game you’re playing before we can answer. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 7 at 20:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ Related, I asked a similar question about the 5e spell legend lore. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 7 at 20:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ Please note that we handle questions for many different roleplaying games; you'll need to tell us which game & edition you're asking about for us to be able to help you. \$\endgroup\$
    – Oblivious Sage
    Commented Apr 8 at 0:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ Sorry my bad I meant d&d and have now adjusted the question to show that, also thank you for helping word my question a little better \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 8 at 5:54

2 Answers 2

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You jinx people

The word "bane" is a synonym for "curse". Using mystic words, arcane gestures, and a drop of blood, you indirectly affect someone. Nothing obvious happens, but targets' combat performance deteriorates. They miss more often and have troubles with dodging/resisting other spells. Basically, you inflict a bad luck.

Why no visual effects?

If a spell has visual/audial manifestation, this is described in the spell text. You mentioned Fireball as a perfect example:

A bright streak flashes from your pointing finger to a point you choose within range and then blossoms with a low roar into an explosion of flame.

In rare cases a spell text describes what target percieves, feels, or even thinks:

the target treats the phantasm as if it were real. The target rationalizes any illogical outcomes from interacting with the phantasm

Bane has no such text. That means it has no perceivable manifestation. Like Bestow curse, its only immediate effect is that the target "become cursed":

You touch a creature, and that creature must succeed on a Wisdom saving throw or become cursed for the duration of the spell.

The only way to be sure if the spell actually affects a creature is to cast Identify on it:

If you instead touch a creature throughout the casting, you learn what spells, if any, are currently affecting it.

What if you want them?

Aside from the components, casting of the spell has no perceivable effect. Although as a player, you can add one. See Tasha's Cauldron of Everything, "Personalizing Spells":

you can customize the cosmetic effects of your character’s spells

For roleplaying purposes, you can describe manifestation of your spells any way you like it.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ “You jinx people” It isn’t clear to me where you’re getting this from. Is it an “educated guess”? The only reference in that paragraph (the DDB link) doesn’t say much related to the claim. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 8 at 12:10
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    \$\begingroup\$ @ThomasMarkov it is primarily from the spell name. "Bane" is a synonym for "curse", as far as I know. Also, the spell effect — you chant mystic words, then people become affected by bad luck. \$\endgroup\$
    – enkryptor
    Commented Apr 8 at 13:47
  • \$\begingroup\$ So based on the last statement (referencing Tasha's), rather than saying "nothing happens visually" it would be more accurate to say "nothing necessarily happens visually". \$\endgroup\$
    – Valley Lad
    Commented Apr 8 at 19:34
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    \$\begingroup\$ This is a good answer. Just want to point out, it takes the question just as if the word "literally" was instead "visually". Is that what the asker meant? He could have meant: Are targets' senses clouded? Do they get a bit dizzy or lightheaded or have trouble focusing attention? Lots of ways to interpret "what literally happens?" Of course the answer will be similar -- canon doesn't say, and up to the DM. \$\endgroup\$
    – Valley Lad
    Commented Apr 8 at 19:38
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    \$\begingroup\$ @ValleyLad fair point. I'll edit the answer. \$\endgroup\$
    – enkryptor
    Commented Apr 9 at 7:29
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There is no Obvious Effect

It is a magical effect where you aren't as good as you usually are at doing things. This effect is not generally apparent to the character because there is a possibility of failure any time you are rolling dice. However, players may observe inconsistencies in game-play that provide hints and allow them to deduce there is a magical effect.

How You Might Observe the Effect of bane

Bob and Mary are trying to kill the goblin shaman who sprays them with burning hands. They try to dodge out of the way and both roll a 15 for a saving throw. The DM rolls the modifiers and announces that Mary succeeds but Bob fails. Bob cries that the DM is playing favorites and threatens to flip the table. The DM tells Bob that his character "just feels a little off..."

But that's OK because, after Mary the Unburnt kills the shaman, it is Bob's turn! Bob has multiple attacks and is attacking the goblin king. Bob strikes him with the same weapon twice - rolling a 17 for each attack. The DM rolls the modifiers again and announces that the first attack hits but the second misses. Bob squints at the DM... before grumbling, "Let me guess, I feel a little off?" The DM grins and nods...

Even at this point Bob doesn't know he's under a magical effect but he may suspect it.

p.s. I never really thought about how annoying this spell can be to players.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ This is also a really good answer and I appreciated you including a section on how to practically describe Bane (and other less obvious spells) as a GM \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 10 at 13:04

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